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Europe, Greece, Travel

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

October 16, 2019
Looking at the sea from the back of a ferry in Greece

Ferry greece

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You dream of going to a Greek Island and soaking up the sun while sipping ouzo, but how did you get to those beautiful islands you dream of? Most of the islands are only accessible by ferry, although some of the larger more popular islands have airports. Booking ferry tickets are much easier than it used to be, but a first timer may need some help navigating the ins and outs of taking a Greek ferry.

Flights and the Ferry

My advice is to never ever book your ferry tickets the same day as your flight. This is especially true if you have hotel reservations paid for or work to return to after your vacation. Fly in and stay in Athens for the night or book a hotel near the ferry port. On my last trip, my ferry choices were to leave either at 7 AM or 4:30 PM which meant arriving in Ios after midnight. I opted for 7 AM, so I booked myself a hotel at Piraeus port for the night before. In this case, I could have never made a 7 AM ferry with any flight.

Which Ferry

There are many ferry lines, but not all the ferry lines go to every island. Which means you won’t have a lot of choices on which ferry line you take. You may be able to choose a fast or a slow ferry depending on which island you are going to.

Some of the Greece ferry lines include Blue Star Ferries, Seajets and Hellenic Seaways. They are all reliable ferry companies.

The advantages of taking the fast ferry are less time on the ferry and more time on the Greek Islands. The other advantage is that the fast ferries are usually more modern than the slow ferries.

The disadvantages are if you get sea sick easily, the fast ferry might not be for you. Many of the fast ferries are hydrofoils, which are less stable in the sense that you feel the waves not that they are going to flip over. Another disadvantage is that you are usually not allowed on the deck, especially if the weather is bad. If the weather is really bad, the hydrofoils will be canceled. If you are going to a Greek island in winter, keep this in mind and allow for it in your schedule and bookings.

Book your ferry tickets here with Ferry Hopper!

Which Port to Catch Your Greece Ferry

Athens has three ports in which ferries leave from, Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina. The issue with this is that not all islands are served by each port. For example, to get to Kea, you will have to leave from Lavrio. If you are booking your own ferry tickets, then I recommend using FerryHopper.  It is straightforward and will give you indirect routes as well as direct routes.  If you are booking your tickets through an agent, make sure to check which port you are leaving from before you set out for your ferry as they are far apart and you will miss your ferry.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

Getting On and Off

The first time I took a Greek ferry, it was from Ios to Santorini and back. Ios is small enough, and I had help, so it wasn’t very hard. But in Santorini, I was alone, and there were a lot more people and a lot more ferries. It also seemed a bit disorganized, although in hindsight it wasn’t.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

If you are on an early morning ferry, go early as you may be able to get on without all the rushing that is associated with getting on later in the day. This is especially true if you are embarking on at the first stop. In Pireaus, you may board even an hour early on some ferries.

At Piraeus there are many gates the ferries leave from and from the beginning to the end is far, so check it and arrive early to find the right gate. On the islands, there may only be one gate or very few gates. The best way to figure out where your ferry will depart from is the ask the Port police. They are in navy uniforms that look a little military in style. Your ferry ticket should have the name of the ferry on it, and most ferries are clearly marked. Some tickets will have your gate number on them.

You need to be there early but not more than 30 minutes. Rarely are ferries early in Greece and more often a few minutes or more late. But the disembarkation and embarkation process is fast, and they won’t wait for you. However, if they arrive early, they will not leave early. Don’t worry if you see your ferry arriving before you have reached the port.

What to Do with Your Luggage

Once you are on, you should store your larger luggage in the area you are directed to. There are too many stairs involved on the ferry, and you won’t want to bring it to your seat. Unless your bag is light, leave it here. It will be fine and there is no reason to worry about it being stolen.  Do take your valuables with you to be sure, though.

Proceed up the stairs, and someone will help you find your seat. Last year, I sat where I wanted, well except for business class but this year they really seemed keen on people sitting in their assigned seats.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

They will announce each port as they get close and everyone will move downstairs to gather their luggage. It will seem chaotic, but don’t stress you will get your luggage and get off the ferry. It is a very efficient system even if it doesn’t look like it.

Book Your Greek Ferry Tickets

There are many ways to get ferry tickets. If you are in Greece in the low-season, you might be able to get them on the day. However, I book mine online in advance with Ferry Hopper. Book the tickets on their website and you can pick them up right before you board the ferry. Some ferry operators even have the option to show the tickets on your phone, much like an airline boarding pass.

Do you have any tips for the Greek ferry? Share with us.

Greece, Packing, Travel

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

February 27, 2019
What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

Packing for a sailing trip around the Greek Islands seems like it should be easy, you just through a swimsuit, shorts and sunscreen and go right?! Well, that might be fine on a cruise, but reading the list provided by the sailing company I was unsure how to pack and what to pack it in.

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Surprisingly I only found a few blog posts regarding packing for a sailing or boat trip. Most of what I found was not for a two-week trip and were for only very casual trips and I was going to be eating out every night on this trip.

I recommend only bringing cotton and linen items as you will feel much more comfortable in those fabrics, and they dry quickly. You may be able to get laundry done on one of the islands. Greece is also casual and you will not feel out of place in shorts every day. At night people do dress a bit nicer, but Greece is still casual at night, think summer dresses and nice pants.

Clothing

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

4-5 pairs of shorts – I only brought three and kicked myself for taking the 4th pair out at the last minute. Yes, I did laundry, but even linen takes time to dry in the humid air.

5-6 t-shirts and tank tops – I brought this many because I tend to spill on myself!

7-8 pairs of underwear- You can bring more or less depending on how much hand washing you want to do

3-4 bras – You will probably be in your swimsuit every day during the day

1 pair of pants or jeans – The nights can get chilly, and I was happy to have them

3-4 dresses – We went out to dinner every night, but one and I only brought 3 and wished I had one more for variety

Windbreaker – Preferably one that is waterproof. It rained one day and one rough sea day and mine kept me warm. You also never know when a storm may come up on the water.

3-4 swimsuits – Too many! Probably isn’t a thing, but I wore my two bikinis the most.

1-2 coverups or sarongs – I wore my cover up when walking to beaches from the boat. You could also wear your shorts, but then they might be wet. I made sure mine were long enough to be comfortable to wear inside a shop or restaurant I might want to pop into along the way.

Hat – Make sure it has a strap to keep it on in the wind or attach it to your clothes with a clip.

Shoes

1 pair of flip-flops – Essential for the beach. Sometimes the sand is too hot to walk on and you will need them to get to your desired Greek beach location.

1-2 pairs of sandals – Good for going out. Don’t bring heels. We walked far one some nights for dinner, and the streets are not even. If you must be high, bring wedges. The specific ones I purchased for many years are no longer being made but I have included a link to a new style of Aerosoles sandals that I like.

1 pair of deck shoes with light-colored soles – These are especially important if you plan on helping with the sailing of the boat. They will protect your toes from getting broken! Most boats will want you to have light colored soles so your shoes do not scuff the deck. The ones I wore are no longer available, but these are similar in style.

Toiletries

Sunscreen – Bring as much as you think you will need. You can buy it in Greece, but it will be very expensive. Don’t bring spray sunscreen as it can make everything slippery, which is not what you want on a boat.

Deodorant – It is hot!

Make-up – Most days I only applied this at night for dinner. For the day, I either wore nothing or cc cream with sunscreen

Shampoo/Conditioner – For two weeks, I brought full-sized bottles because I have long hair. You may be able to get away with less. The sea and the wind do take a toll on your hair, so conditioner is a must.

Hair texturizer – You will not be able to blow dry your hair on the boat, so bring something to style your hair (if you want). The link it to my favorite sea salt spray.

Bar of soap – I found this much easier and one less liquid to bring on onboard.

Lotion – The sea and the sun will dry your skin out. Bring something that doubles as after-sun (something with aloe vera).

Bug wipes – There are mosquitos in Greece. I prefer bug wipes as again, one less liquid and it doesn’t spray everywhere. Get the unscented ones!

What to Pack it All-In!

Rolling duffle bag – There is nowhere to store a traditional rolling suitcase. You need a bag that can be squished flat for storage. The one I chose had a small hard bottom, which offered some protection for fragile things and liquids.

Day bag – You will want something to carry while sightseeing.

Beach bag – I didn’t bring one but was given a tote on arrival in Athens, and I was so glad as I brought it to the beach.

Evening bag – You may want something to carry to dinner instead of your day bag.

Dry bags – If you bring a camera or any other electronics, you should bring at least one dry bag. This will keep it protected if you have to take the dingy to shore.

Technology

Camera – This goes without saying, but you will want your camera.

E-reader  – If you are a big reader like me, then bringing several books was easier with an e-reader.

Other

Beach towel – The company I went with did not provide beach towels, so I brought a Turkish towel for the beach. They are thinner than a regular towel, are super absorbent and can act as a sarong in a pinch.

Clothespins – You will want to hang your clothes to dry, and the boat may have some pins, but if everyone hangs up at the same time, the pins go quickly.

Earplugs  – Some harbors are loud at night, and wearing earplugs helped me to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Eyemask – Depending on where you are you might want to sleep with the windows open so if you want to avoid being woken up with the sun, I recommend an eye mask to sleep a bit later.

Have you been sailing? What do you recommend to pack?

Travel, UK

12 Great Things to do in East London

November 26, 2018

Things to do in East London

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For several years now, East London has become more and more popular. This rise in popularity has increased the things to do in East London. The variety of things to do isn’t just for the young and hip but also things for children to adults. The last two times I have visited London, I have stayed in Hackney and really enjoyed getting to know East London, and it is now my preferred area in London.

Old Spitalfields Market

Things to do in East London

You know you can expect something special in a market that has been operating on the same site for over 350 years. Old Spitalfields Market is a daily open-air market. The market hosts vendors selling art, clothes, shoes, beauty products and much more. Some vendors are small shops, and some are established retailers located in the surrounding buildings of the market.

Also, there are plenty of food stalls and restaurants. On my recent visit, I ate at a restaurant that specializes in cheese! I opted for a sandwich, but you could also get fondue. Some places have chairs and tables, and others are take away only. You can shop and eat at the same time if you like. Old Spitalfields Market is open every day, although not every vendor is open every day.

Brick Lane

Brick Lane Band in a Bus

Brick Lane is actually a street in East London, but it is more than just a street. On Sundays, there is a market. The market will have vendors selling vintage clothes, furniture, and other items. There are some food stalls as well. Live music and entertainment are usually found as well. Last year, I saw a band playing a van!

If you are there another day of the week, there are plenty of shops to visit. Also, Brick Lane is home to some of the best Bangladeshi curry houses in London. Let your nose guide you to the curry house as you can smell them from a block or so away!

Street Art

Things to do in East London

East London is the home of street art in London. Much of the street art is not far from Brick Lane, but some can be found all around the area. You can see a lot without a guide, but there are some pieces you may not find without help. I recommend taking a tour not only to see the hard to find ones but also to get a better understanding of the artists and their art. You can probably do the tour every year since street art does not always last for long.

London Fields

Things to do in East London

London Fields is one of my favorite parks in London. It is not as well know as others, but it a wonderful spot to spend the afternoon. It is located in the borough of Hackney in East London. You can reach it by taking the Overground to Hackney Central or London Fields station.

The park has a lido with a heated swimming pool that was renovated in 2017. In the summer, people gather here on the weekends to BBQ and sunbath. Parts of the park become wildflower fields in the summer. It is a popular place for people to walk their dogs. Right in the park is a pub as well. In the fall, the trees are changing color, and people are out enjoying a run in London Fields. There are also tennis courts that can be reserved.

Hackney Empire Theater

Things to do in East London

 

You don’t have to go to West London to see a show. You can catch a show at the Hackney Empire Theater. They show a variety of shows including local talent as well as touring theater shows. The interior of the theater is also something to behold as it is beautifully decorated. It was originally built in 1901 and was reopened in 2004 after a three-year renovation.

V&A Museum of Childhood

If you are in London with kids, the V&A Museum of Childhood is a great free option. There are exhibitions on the history of childhood including toys and clothes and lots of daily activities for kids. Next door is the Museum Park. The V&A Museum of Childhood is one block away from the Bethnal Green tube station.

Regents Canal

Things to do in East London

Walking along the Regents Canal is one of my favorite things to do in East London. I like looking at the canal boats that are docked there. There is also great people watching as many people run and bike along the canal. You can also see birds enjoying the canal as well. Near Broadway Market, you can see some old oil storage tanks that are not used anymore. There is also some great graffiti on some parts of the canal.

The canal boats are required to move locations every two weeks unless they have a private mooring. So another thing you can watch is the boats going through the locks. If you are feeling really ambitious, you could walk the whole 8.6 miles of the Regents Canal!

Broadway Market

Things to do in East London

Broadway Market is more than a market these days, and while there is still a market on Saturdays, the whole street is lined with things to do during the week. Broadway Market is next to London Fields and the Regents Canal so you could make a day of visiting all three.

One of my favorite things to do on Broadway Market on a non-market day is to visit the Broadway Bookshop. They have a great selection of bestsellers and local authors. My favorite place to eat on Broadway Market is El Ganso. It is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The menu changes but is always good. On my last visit, I had a fried zucchini flower stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey!

Victoria Park

Things to do in East London

Victoria Park is a large park located in East London. The park has a long history as it was established in 1845. During the early years, there was a large public fountain that gave the local residents access to clean drinking water. You can still see the fountain today. There are several ponds with aquatic birds including swans. It is a great place to walk your dog, have a picnic or go for a jog.

Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home. It shows what the homes in different time periods. The Geffrye also has a fantastic garden located behind the museum. As I was checking their website for updated information, I noticed that the main museum is closed for renovations till 2020. However, the restored almshouse is open on select dates, and there are still events happening at the museum. I look forward to visiting again after the renovations!

Columbia Road Flower Market

Things to do in East London

East London is full of markets, but this one is not like the others. The Columbia Road Flower Market is only a flower market. It only operates on Sundays. If you are only visiting London, you may not want to buy flowers, but it is worth visiting to see how beautiful it is. There are also some great shops to explore along the road that is open even when the flower market is not open.

Photo from Flickr by Jerome Yewdall

Hackney Museum

The Hackney Museum is another great place to visit if you have children with you. The museum is located on the ground floor of the Hackney Central Library. Entry is free. The permanent exhibit covers the history of Hackney and most of the displays are interactive and are the right size for kids.

As you can see, there are so many things to do in East London. I hope I have inspired you to explore London beyond the typical tourist locations and explore a neighborhood where Londoners live. Have you been to East London? What is your favorite thing to do in East London?

Where to Stay in East London, UK

Stay in The East London Hotel for easy access for all things to do in East London, click here for rates!

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East London, UK

Art, Travel, UK

Shoreditch London Street Art Tour

November 19, 2018

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Since I started traveling, I have noticed street art around the world. Last year, I wandered around East London admiring the street art of Shoreditch. However, I really wanted to know more about it, so this year I went on the Shoreditch Street Art Tour through Airbnb Experiences. I also invited Suzie from Suzie Speaks along as we always enjoy a good catch-up when I am in London.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

A Brief Background on Street Art

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Many modern street artists are former graffiti artists. Graffiti is defined as drawing or writing on a flat surface. Graffiti is not a recent invention, though. Ancient graffiti has been found in Pompeii and Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Even ancient graffiti was illicit, so the artist had to be fast in order not to be caught. For the modern artist, this led to learning to develop excellent freehand skills. This is why so many graffiti artists have become outstanding street artists.

So what is the difference between street art and graffiti? Graffiti wasn’t always for public consumption in the beginning. Graffiti artists were sometimes in it to outdo other graffiti artists. The graffiti would be put in obscure spots and many times out of the public eye. You see examples of these on bridge overpasses. Street art is usually in very public spaces. Also, street art isn’t always just made up of spray paint, and many mediums may be used in one piece.

In my opinion, the rise and acceptance of street art has led to the acceptance of graffiti as art. Although, most graffiti is still done without permission as is some street art. In recent years, street art has gained even more credibility due to the popularity of artists like Banksy. Many artists have had their works shown in galleries and street art galleries have sprung up as well.

The Tour

Dean was our tour guide for this art walk around Shoreditch. He has been around the London street art scene since he was 11! Needless to say, he knew so much about every piece we saw. I don’t think I have run across a tour guide with so much enthusiasm as Dean. It was like he was giving the tour for the first time.

It became apparent that this tour would be different when he brought us to the first piece on the tour. Dean began to explain the history of the piece by AKAJimmyC. The piece had been created with large dots that when layered upon themselves became the art we now see. Much to my surprise, the first art was a portrait. The artist had asked permission from the shop if he could paint the wall, for free no less. So that the piece would have meaning for the shop, he painted a portrait of the owner and his daughter. The store has since been sold, but the new owners were happy for the piece to remain as is and even commissioned the artist to paint a wall inside.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

While this piece was not the largest of the street art we saw on the tour, it represented the passion shown by street artists and the dedication they have to their craft. It also spoke to the craftsmanship of a street artist. The portrait made by dots reminded me of Impressionism with a modern take. But the focus of the piece told me the artist is thoughtful of the neighborhood they seek to embellish with their art.

Dean continued to impress me with his knowledge of the street art we were seeing. He knows the history of most of the pieces and the artist. Because street art tends to be transient in nature the piece can disappear. Although some smaller pieces tend to remain. Another thing that Dean did that added to the tour was showing us the artist’s Instagram accounts. Many of these artists have art all over the world, and we could see them this way, but it also showed how some have improved their skills and evolved as an artist.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Last year, I saw a stunning piece that I loved, and I was looking forward to learning more about it. Sadly, it has been painted over since I was in London last. In fact, the wall has been painted over three times since. One time it was done without permission, and that is when the piece was lost. However, the new piece is also a fantastic portrait by the street artist Mr. Cenz. We saw several pieces of street art by this particular artist along the tour.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Some of the best pieces would be hard to find without a guide. Down a quiet street, which is hard to find in Shoreditch, Dean took us down an alleyway to show us a large piece that was done entirely by freehand done by artist Fanakapan. I had no idea that many street artists will draw the piece small and then project it onto the wall and then painted it. It definitely makes me appreciate the free hand done ones even more.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Of course, many places still think of street art as just harmful graffiti and not as art. Many of these street artists started as taggers and graffiti artists and have grown into the amazing artists we see today. As with beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder and street art is just the same. Society is slowly changing its attitude towards street art and even graffiti. Many cities around the world have become organic museums.

What do you think of street art? Do you have any favorite pieces?

Here are links to the other street artists Instagram that are featured.

BKFoxx

Phlegm

Envol Studio